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Sometimes Anger Is Appropriate: It Can Serve A Positive Purpose

We’ve all heard it before; anger occurs, in some shape or form, when an individual feels as if they have been unjustly treated or unfairly slighted by another person or group of people. Regardless of how many people are involved with an interpersonal transaction, anger, when identified and used effectively, can serve a positive interpersonal purpose while leveling (or stabilizing) emotion of the individual. In such a way, the effective identification and use of anger can simultaneously create at least 2 positive outcomes; i) emotional relief for the relationship and ii) emotional relief for the individual.  

Before positive personal and interpersonal outcomes can be achieved, however, a person must develop a precisely-timed ability to identify anger in the moment and harness its energy for a positive personal and interpersonal function. By use of a case illustration, we will see how a person uses the powerful force of this particular emotion for good.

A couple gets into an argument. They are arguing ferociously about spending time with a certain group of friends. As the argument goes back and forth, points and counterpoints fly around wildly between them with no agreement in sight. Neither individual in the couple is willing to budge. Friction is building and building fast. Anger enters the argument on both sides and the couple are now in the unsettling swell of an emotional fight. A few nasty remarks enter the emotional fight. Unkind facial expressions enter the emotional fight. Finger-pointing enters the emotional fight. Tempers begin to flare up. The couple are now in each other’s face; the emotional friction appears as if it cannot be resolved. Anger is now dominating the interpersonal dynamic between the couple.

This here is the imperative part of the case illustration; anger now dominates the dynamic and the emotional friction has become unbearable. The couple has reached a critical point of emotional escalation (they are yelling and screaming in each other’s face). Now it is sink or swim time for the relationship. Thankfully the man decides to swim. Here is how;

In the absolute worst part of the fight, where levels of anger intensity are at their greatest (some people may refer to this as rage), the man feels the slightest lining of water enter his eyes (this physiological moment is when a person must successfully identify that they have reached their highest threshold of the emotion of anger; this is when the person must realize that the slightest lining of water in the eyes symbolizes a rejection or intolerance of anger and a welcoming in of hurt, fright, or insecurity). For example, if a person can, in the most intense moment of their interpersonal anger, feel and identify the water gently line their eye, they will be able to say at precisely the same time to whoever they are in a fight with – ‘I am hurt’, and say it with definitive conviction, permitting diffusion of emotional friction.

So, when an individual allows a gentle lining of water to enter their eyes in the highest intensity of their anger, the other person if connected and fully present in the emotional fight will almost always and automatically allow a gentle lining of water to enter their eyes. This is not saying that both people are crying. Quite the contrary, the gentle lining of water in each other’s eyes during a fight effectively communicates hurt on both sides; an acknowledgment that I am hurt and you are hurt. You are hurt and I am hurt. We are both hurt.

Unless, however, 1 individual in a given relationship can identify, use, and transform the anger at its highest intensity and point into something that communicates vulnerability (i.e. – feeling afraid, feeling insecure, or feeling hurt and why), the anger will most likely escalate to a point where something regrettable happens between two or more people. And anything beyond yelling and screaming in each other’s face is probably regrettable to say the least.    

Sometimes the emotional expression of anger is appropriate. Some intensities of anger can be very frightening. Anger, if transformed to an expression of vulnerability at its greatest intensity (when a person feels their eyes well up), can serve a positive personal and interpersonal purpose.

Remember, anger does not have to be negative. Let yourself feel angry. Do not be afraid if your anger escalates. Monitor it; pay attention to it. Feel it move and surge through your body. Feel it knot in your stomach. Feel it clench in your jaw. Feel it tighten up in your neck. Feel it warm up your head. Feel it redden your face. Feel it move to your eyes. Feel the warmth in your eyes…

Matthew Polkinghorne

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